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The ultimate guide to getting online advertising results in 2016

We all have an advertising budget, but determining where the best spend is varies, so which is best for you in the coming year? We’re watching the trends and have some meaningful insight into what will work in 2016.

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Pay to play is the way

Pay to play. A very popular phrase among the 21st century businesses. Too bad no one taught the kids who were picked last in kickball this term. They might have actually not been picked last.

Paying to play has become an instrumental technique in this wild and crazy informational era we live in. Content is thrown in front of us at speeds faster than an major league pitcher could ever reach. Which means we need to find new and creative ways to grab the attention of the attention depleted and semi-annoyed consumer.

Besides being creative and demanding attention, paying for it is very much an acceptable and strategic move on our parts. The people yearning for the attention.

What’s the best way to pay to play?

How do we best execute the pay to play strategy to get in front of the people who need our services or products?

There are a lot of choices, but I have compiled the 5 best places to use as part of your pay to play model. In this aaamazing post, we will review each channel along with a few easy tips you can use right away to effectively get in front of the people you serve.

Without further ado…the top 5 pay to play outlets.

1. Google AdWords Search Network

You know when you search for shoes, diapers, restaurants, weight loss programs or software you get a string of search results. Planted at the very top in the first 3 spots are the advertisements that look like search results, but have the little yellow box to the left that says Ad. Then there a long list of 10 mini listing ads on the right hand side…those are the search ads.

The search ads are the longest tenure and still very effective online advertising channel. There is no denying how effective these ads are, but at what costs.

They are and can be really freaking expensive. I just typed into the Google Keyword Planner keywords: real estate agent and real estate broker.

The keyword real estate agent was estimated to be around $7.72 a click. A CLICK!

Real estate broker was $17.32 a click. WHAT?! That’s ridonculous.

And it really depends on your business because the keyword pizza delivery austin is $4.45 a click. Pizza delivery san francisco comes in at $3.31 a click.

The market and keyword depend on the click. $3.31 and $4.45 are not horribly expensive, but compared to the cost of a click on Facebook being around $0.53 to as high as $1.38. I haven’t really seen anything higher than $1.50, yet.

$3, $4, and $17 a click is light years ahead of the cost on Facebook.

But there are ways to get a really good return on your investment while not paying the highest cost per click on Google. If you create highly focused ads with highly focused keywords with highly focused landing pages that convert…then you will see your quality score go up, click through rates go up, and cost per clicks go down.

That’s right…Google rewards you for having highly clickable ads with high quality scores. The reward being a lower cost than a competitor with a lower quality score and click through rate to be a the top of the ads.

So, if you choose to give the AdWords search ads a try…do your research and spend time setting everything up on the backend before you launch. Create a plan and a strategy. Make sure to test your sales funnel. You will save yourself a ton of money and time.

In conclusion… AdWords is still a very effective outlet for the pay to play model. Most people are ready to buy in search ads. The true success is what you do after people visit your site or opt-in.

2. Google AdWords Display Network

Google AdWords Display Network is a secret weapon, in my opinion. Not a whole lot of people know about the capabilities or take advantage of the opportunities with the Display Network ads.

Let me give you a quick breakdown. Google’s Display Network has partner sites that they distribute advertisements to. Some of the partner sites include Google properties such as Google Finance, Gmail, Google Maps, Blogger, as well as over one million Web, video, gaming, and mobile display partners. Other partner websites include Inc. Magazine, ESPN, Wall Street Journal, and more.

The ads are displayed as text, various banner images, and even some animation ads.

The magnificent part of the Display Network is that you can create highly targeted ads based on data from the internet to target your audience on the websites they are spending time on. And I’m not talking about remarketing.

I’m saying you can create ads going after mom’s or business consultants and place ads on the websites/blog they are reading and consuming information on.

You only pay for the click, which can be relatively low in comparison to some keywords. However, the clicks and impressions will be lower than the search network.

The clicks will be more qualified because it is highly targeted. If you choose to go the banner image route, you do have to create a number of image size variations because there are so many options.

Anyway, not to geek out too much…but if you are looking for untapped resource, this is a great avenue to explore. You do need to plan, strategize, and put some work into the image creation. However, if you have a good game plan with a strong sales funnel.

You are prime to get some major return on your investment.

3. Facebook Advertising

Facebook advertising is the place to be right now. And as time goes on, it’s only going to become more popular, which means more expensive because their will be more bidders and higher bids on the ads.

If you want to start advertising on it, the time is now. The cost is still lower than the AdWords options. The amazing part of Facebook is the different options you have…mixed with the endless amount of data they have on the targeting options.

Facebook has data not just from their site, but from the millions of other sites that have the Sign In with Facebook button. The advertising targeting data is aggregated from every corner of the internet. Talk about powerful.

If you want to target men between the ages of 34 to 43 who live in 20 mile radius of Boston that have an income of $50k to $150k that are single and have a high purchasing behavior. You can.

For realtors…fuhgeddaboudit. The targeting options are even scarier. You can target people who are likely to buy a home soon or potential new homebuyers.

Scary, I know. But ultra effective nonetheless.

The targeting is extremely specific, which means your ads have to match it. The advertising options range from ads on the right column of Facebook to Dark Posts, which are ads that look like Facebook posts, but don’t show up in your Facebook page’s wall as a post. They are only seen by the target audience you created.

You have new options now like Facebook Leads, which allows you to gather leads for something in return like a guide, coupon, or such with one click. They stole that from Twitter who stole that from Amazon’s one click buy button.

The advertising options continue. But perhaps, that is another posts. What you need to know is that no matter who your customer is…everyone is on Facebook. It would be advantageous of you to at least test the different ad options on Facebook.

People are making a living on the Facebook Ads along. One line of caution, with something that is so powerful it does not come easy to be uber successful. Take it from experience, you can’t just create an ad, find a niche target, and expect money and leads to be flowing through the doors.

It’s a complicated medium to use because of all the options and the psychology of people on Facebook. My recommendation is to do two things. First, set aside money to gamble with. Second, invest in some training or hire a Facebook Advertising consultant to help you. Make sure the consultant knows what they are doing. Have them do a test run with you or ask for references.

As low cost as the ads are, you are still susceptible to lose money if you don’t invest it wisely and have a plan. Like an advertisement. Even with the risks, the rewards can be enormous.

4. Twitter Advertising

Twitter advertising has opportunity oozing out of every crevice. Might sound disgusting, but it’s true.

On Twitter, the costs range. It’s not as clear cut as Facebook or Google because of their options. The audiences are more targeted than Google AdWords search network and almost as rich in data as Facebook.

Twitter has come a long way. I was just looking at the behavior data…it has gone up 10 levels since six months ago.

For some people, Twitter works better than Facebook ads. Again, it comes back to your audience and the targeting you setup.

Some quick highlights of Twitter ads…you have the lead card option or the one-click advertising option. Remember, Facebook stole it from Twitter. Twitter allows you to offer people something special in exchange for their email address with just one click.

You can target people to engage with a tweet. You can target people by upcoming events such as sporting events, conferences, and so on. The opportunities are just endless with Twitter.

And the costs doesn’t have to be through the roof. You set the budget on daily spend and lifetime spend. So, if you have $10 or $10,000 you can use Twitter advertising.

Another channel you shouldn’t let pass you up.

One quick idea on how to use it…Twitter allows you to target people who like a certain TV show. If you know your customers are fans of a certain show or you want to target people who like a particular show then use that targeting and your creativeness to attract them.

For example, let’s say you sell wine or work in the wine industry or your customers like wine. You can target people who watch Scandal. Olivia Pope (the lead character) loves to drink wine when she unwinds from a long day of covering up politicians dirt and dealing with her daily momma drama.

That is a perfect way of getting in front of the fellow wine drinkers. You could even be a wine bar or bar that serves the sophisticated wine drinker. Get an ad with a picture of Olivia drinking a glass of red wine. Use clever content. Make them an offer even Olivia couldn’t refuse and bam! You could have a hit.

5. Remarketing & Retargeting

Remarketing, or retargeting as some might reference it as, is an advertising option that everyone should take advantage of. The best definition of remarketing is a little piece of code that put on your website. You can put it throughout your website or one specific pages.

So, when someone visits your website, no matter the source of the traffic…it could be from Facebook organically or a Google search or LinkedIn or Twitter or a referral partner. The code will shoot off a cookie to be placed in the browser. The cookie will then register data to the advertising portal that the code is associated with, which can be Facebook, Google, or Twitter…almost all advertising platforms have retargeting code or pixels.

The data will aggregate a list of people who have visited your site and visited specific pages on your site. You can build lists out for people who have down certain activities on your page..like reading a blog post or looking at an opt-in, but not taking action.

The key to remarketing is building those audiences, which you can do with the help of the other advertising campaigns.

For example, let’s say you wrote a blog posts specifically targeting mom’s who just had a baby who graduated from UCLA. You could call the blog 5 Eco-Friendly Products New Mom’s Who Graduated From UCLA Can’t Live Without.

You set it up on Facebook as a dark post. On the blog you add the pixels to track the audience. You also have calls to actions placed inside the post to have links to the 5 products page on your website.

The person goes to the blog post, they read it, love it, but get distracted and move on to a cat video on Facebook. That’s ok because you have a remarketing ad that follows them on Facebook. The ad is reminding them about the products.

You can also create custom audiences in Facebook and Twitter to target ads about something you might have pushed in a recent email blast.

You can build custom audiences by plugging in the email addresses of the people on your list for either Facebook or Twitter. So, if you make an offer in an email for a product or service, you can remind them about the offer on Facebook and Twitter with the retargeting ad.

You can setup pixels for Google Remarketing that will follow people who visit certain pages on your website. For example, if someone goes to a service page on your website. An ad can follow them around the web reminding them of the service you offer them.

Remarketing increases conversion rates up to 70%. Not a bad number to play around with.

You can setup the payment structure to pay per click. So, you are only paying for the people who click on the ad, which is a fantastic model…as long as your offer is converting.

The amount of people using remarketing ads are still by comparison low. You would be at an advantage to consider using a good portion of your advertising mulla on remarketing.

People who visit your site are more likely than anyone else to convert than someone new to your brand and website.

What have you tried and seen results in? I’d love to hear back from you peeps.

#Advertising

Brandon Lewin loves sharing his plethora of experiences, stories, and knowledge of everything marketing with the world with the goal to ensure everyone is marketing the right way. He's an entrepreneur, a marketer, a trainer, and most importantly, a devoted family man.

Business Marketing

The science behind using pictures of people in marketing to convert more leads

(MARKETING) People fear using their picture in social networking profiles, but we make the case not only for using pictures of yourself, but of scrapping stock graphics for photos of people that studies show improve conversion rates in marketing.

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To avatar or not to avatar?

After all of these years of people using the web, the debate continues about whether or not people should use their headshots as their profile pictures and avatars on their blogs and their social networks. Many people are uncomfortable with the way they look in photos, and some are never satisfied with their picture, so they settle for their company logo, a cartoon image, or a random photo to share something about who they are. While some believe the argument is subjective, we would argue otherwise.

It is advisable to use a photo of yourself as your profile picture wherever you go, no matter how unsatisfied you are and how uncomfortable. There are many reasons from making it easier to connect with people offline after talking online, to giving people a better way to connect with you, but a personal side has become expected on social networks and blogs, making a profile picture culturally mandatory.

Throw culture out of the window

So let’s say you’re still uncomfortable advertising your face. I personally hate every picture of me taken since I was 11 and had a bad perm, I get it. Profile pictures can send some people into full fledged panic, and at that point, who cares if web culture dictates a photo?

You should, and here’s why… science.

Science? Yep. Any parent knows intuitively, and scientists have studied for years that babies love pictures of other babies, and part of socializing a child is giving them books with pictures of other babies to connect with, learn from, and see other ethnicities. Babies love looking at other babies, it helps them connect and learn, and believe it or not, many studies show that we don’t evolve past that point in our lives, so, adults love looking at other adults.

More science

If that isn’t enough to convince you to use a profile picture, a recent study shows that a website’s conversion rate can be skyrocketed by using human faces. According to KISSmetrics.com, using human faces “get your prospects to focus more and this causes them to draw towards a common point of interest. It doesn’t get more real than that.”

The company cites an A/B test on Medalia.net, an online art shop, which presented paintings from artists on their homepage, and during testing, they swapped out the photos of the paintings with photos of the artists hoping to increase user engagement. KISSmetrics said, “Making this small but relevant change sent their conversion rate through the roof – something they didn’t expect. Their site experienced a whopping 95% increase in conversions!.”

Reading between the lines

Using a photo in your profile pictures is important, it allows people to connect with you, just like babies connect with other babies through photos, and website viewers are converted by human photos. But, read between the lines here – using photos of people in marketing is a concept as old as the idea of marketing, and your using people in your blog photos and marketing can improve your conversion over outdated stock graphics. There are legal ways to obtain photos of people (through creative commons), and using photos of your own can have the most meaningful impact.

Whether you’re nervous to share your face with the world or not, web culture dictates that you should and studies show that a percentage of people distrust social networkers without a face shot. Independent of all of that, conversion rates improve when people see other people, as it is easier to connect with over stock graphics or abstract images, so take a leap of faith and put your picture out there, and while you’re at it, try to find ways of using photos of humans in your marketing and blogs.

Just remember – babies love looking at pictures of babies, and we’re all just babies when you boil it down.

This story originally ran here on March 6, 2012.

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4 ways to rise above the noise and get your message heard

(MARKETING) Getting your message heard in this noisy world isn’t impossible, it just takes some purposeful habits on your part.

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When you sit down at your computer or pull your phone out of your pocket, you’re essentially going into battle – a battle for your focus and attention. Will you be able to complete the task you set out to accomplish, or will you get sidetracked by one of dozens of distractions?

Here’s the truth: Your customers aren’t all that different than you. They’re exposed to the same internet noise and onslaught of distractions that you are. If you want your marketing messages to be heard, you must rise above the noise and engage your audience in a clear manner that’s worthy of their focus and attention.

Here are four tips for rising above the noise:

It doesn’t take a lot of foresight or experience to know that the internet is a noisy place. Every single second, 8,015 tweets are sent out, 842 Instagram photos are uploaded, 1,369 Tumblr posts are published, 66,615 Google searches are initiated, 73,580 YouTube videos are viewed, and 2.69 million emails are sent.

There are currently more than 3.8 billion internet users – a 42 percent increase in the last three years – and these figures are ballooning even more. Your customers live in a loud, chaotic internet world where everyone and everything is vying for their attention.

“Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Vine, Twitter, sports, news, and the list goes on and on,” says Alex Kahan, President of Nomad Communications. “Notifications and alerts bombard us by the second. So what’s a marketer to do? How do brands stay relevant in the face of this digital onslaught?”

The solution isn’t to publish more content or create more noise. This will only make you blend in. If you want to thrive, you must rise above. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Go where people are paying attention

The first step is to go where people are paying attention. People are busy and they don’t have time to visit dozens of different outlets to consume content every day. They’d much rather congregate at a village square where they can get everything in one place.

“In digital terms, that village square is social media,” marketer Justin Gray writes. “That’s why most brands aggregate their content on Facebook and other platforms these days: People turn there for business news because their friends, colleagues, and favorite leaders are there in one place. If you think you’re site is where your buyers eyes are, you’re mistaken.”

2. Get to know your audience.

Do you know your audience, or are you too busy focusing on your own needs and goals to notice what they want, need, and feel?

Before you can ever expect your audience to engage you, you must engage them. Work on getting to know your audience and focus on building a tribe. Eventually, the hope is that this tribe will become your customer base.

3. Be authentic

“Trust is the top factor when it comes to getting heard,” Gray believes. “If your mind is only on revenue, stop—that’s 25 steps down the road. Your first priority should be making sure your content persuades buyers to view you in a different light than every other business on the web.”

How do you breed trust? Through authenticity and transparency, of course. With all the promotional marketing and bogus advertising going around the internet, a brand that’s authentic and genuine will stand out. It takes more work, but it’s worth it in the end.

4. Develop visual content

In an internet landscape where millions of words are published on an hourly basis, you need visual content to stand a chance of rising above the noise. Even then, you aren’t guaranteed any visibility and exposure. Your visual content must be compelling.

Compelling visual content is unique, vibrant, eye-popping, and digestible. You only have a few seconds to make an impact, so you need to get straight to the point. This means prioritizing uniqueness, yet being consistent to what your brand stands for. Over time, your audience should be able to identify a style as being associated with your brand without seeing a logo.

It’s not easy to stand out in a noisy marketplace.

Even brands like Amazon, Apple, Coca-Cola, Disney, and McDonald’s face stiff challenges in this area. In order to be successful, you don’t have to reach the masses. You do, however, have to reach your audience and convince them that your messaging is more valuable, relevant, and worthwhile than everything else that’s competing for their finite attention. It sounds simple, but nothing could be more difficult.

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Modern best practices for your online design portfolio

(BUSINESS) Do you have an online design portfolio? Does it hold up to modern standards or is it stuck in 1997?

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Whether you’re looking for your next gig or full time opportunity, your online portfolio is your showcase, your chance to shine. But so frequently, we see creatives that either don’t have an online portfolio, or an awful (or incomplete) portfolio. It’s a challenge, because you often sign NDAs and are not at liberty to share all of your work, it’s a challenge.

Let’s talk about the modern best practices for your online portfolio.

First, before you even open a browser tab, put pen to paper and commit to your goals and consider what you are looking to express. Look around at what others are doing so you know what to compete with. Are you just going to slap up some pics of your work, or are you going to tell the story about the process and why you made certain choices? The language you use will differ if you’re looking for a job or for a client.

Second, where are you pointing people to? If you have some thumbnails on your Geocities site from 1997, you’ve already lost. Owning your own site is the best method, and the most common option used in the industry is WordPress (here are 50 themes to consider), and ideally you own the URL for your name that points to any site hosting your portfolio.

If WordPress feels too advanced for you, Squarespace is the most popular drag and drop option in the industry, and some even use Wix (which was recently improved). Or, you could consider a design portfolio platform like Big Black Bag or Behance.

Next, consider what you’ll display. You’re in a real catch-22, because you want to express experience, diversity, and quality, but if some of your work doesn’t apply to what you want to be hired for, it could actually work against you. Think of this as an art show at a museum – they would never show every piece of your work, rather they would curate specific pieces to tell a story.

And if your portfolio is light on applicable work, create your own concepts and redesigns (so long as you label it as such). Hate Google’s logo redesign or maybe the search interface? Mock up your own, show a before and after, then disclose it as a concept piece you’ve imagined. You could even have a section for concepts that is separated from client work.

Your display should match your work – if you design mobile websites but your portfolio isn’t responsive, you’ve screwed yourself. If you’re an animator, your portfolio shouldn’t be a bunch of websites you redesigned. If you’re a graphic designer, your portfolio shouldn’t showcase a bunch of emailers you created copy for. People are judging you within the first three seconds, so your offering better match the story you’re trying to tell about yourself. If you’re not a deconstructionist designer, your website design better not be deconstructionist. Get it?

Always be updating your portfolio, even if you’re not looking for clients or employment. It’s harder to go back in time to recreate a portfolio than updating as you go. But remember – you can’t just slap up 800 images of a project, again, you’re curating. Select only the best images and add them as you go to save endless time. Try doing this at least monthly (plus, it’s a great way to tell search engines that your site is fresh, thereby improving your ranking).

If much of your work is physical or print, take the time to take high quality photos of these works, potentially even mocking them up on physical products (you can use a site like Smart Mockups as a shortcut).

Next, you want to make sure that your online portfolio serves client or employers’ needs. Is your About page sparse, or does it talk about how you connect with your profession? Does your site tell people who you are, where you are, who you’ve worked for, what kind of work you’re looking for, how you charge, and how they can contact you? If you can’t answer each question in under three seconds, you’re losing opportunities. Design your portfolio for them, not for you. Do you have a logo and tagline? Testimonials? Can they find you elsewhere online (do you have social media buttons in the header or footer)? Everything we’ve mentioned in this paragraph is the equivalent of dozens of “Hire Me” buttons, so don’t take this part lightly.

Make sure that your portfolio is error free. Test every single page to make sure it works, then before going live to the world and sharing the URL, have at least three people (ideally that are writers or editors) review all of the copy for accuracy. You’re not a professional writer, so trust their input if they suggest the copy is off.

If you have the time and capacity, blogging is the cherry on top. Not only does it help your search engine rankings (don’t stress too much about SEO, though), it creates new opportunities for your thoughts to be shared, expanding your reach. You’re smart, you know not to blog about conspiracy theories or politics, blog about your work – why did you choose this profession, what enriches you, why do you make certain design choices, what do you think of large brand designs, etc.

Get the word out. Be sure to add the URL to your design portfolio on all of your social media profiles, even LinkedIn. Audit your online profiles annually to make sure they point to the place that will generate business opportunities for you.

TL;DR – get a WordPress site, curate your best work, make it easy to contact you.

And if your brain needs some samples of modern design, start clicking:

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